According to ‘Elements of Cinema’ “a montage is an editing technique in which shots are juxtaposed in an often fast-paced fashion that compresses time and conveys a lot of information in a relatively short period.”
Montage can be used to find a truth or reveal something that is otherwise hidden through simple cinematic language.
Montage techniques can very powerfully communicate what the story is about.
Lev Kuleshov Effect
The Lev Kuleshov Effect found that the arrangement of images creates meaning and the order of arrangement can modify the meaning. For example the Apple Watch Series 2 advertisements uses montage to effectively show how the apple watch can be used throughout a series of different actions, events, sports etc.
Lev Kuleshov created a subset of montage, creative geography.
Creative Geography is:
- Illusion of arranging images from different locations
- Demonstrating film transcending space
- Leading to montage – filmmaking based on the editing of the clips
For example this scene in Harry Potter uses Creative Geography to make the tents appear as though they are magically larger on the inside than what they appear to be on the outside.
- Developed montage through theory
- Informed by the Marxist Dialectic – the thesis always collides with the antithesis (opposing idea) which creates a combination of the colliders (the synthesis)
Eisenstein’s 5 methods of Montage
- Metric – pacing the cuts regularly
- Varying strengths of shots/edits
- Largely independent of image content
- Cutting to the beat/ tempo
- Rhythmic – cutting at a pace and tying the cuts to the movement of the film
- Creating rhythm through editing
- Varying lengths, movements, direction of shots
- Relating to rhythm of action within the shot
- Tonal – how colours and textures can be juxtaposed to create a tension and collision
- Relate to image content and meanings
- Colours of characters, actions and events
- To create resonance with the audience through the image
- Overtonal – combination of rhythmic and tonal
- Editing to bring out the emotional response to the image sequence or the whole film.
- Combined effect of previous three methods
- Intellectual – association of ideas between each frame.
- “Collision montage”
- expression of ideas (e.g. through visual metaphor)
- dramatic graphic contrast between shots and editing rhythms to enhance conflict
This video shows the 5 methods of montage in use.
Eisenstein’s work “October: Ten Days that Shook the World” pushed intellectual editing to its limits and left the audience confused. It was criticised for being too manipulative and abstract.
This has lead to the realization in more contemporary film making that in order to the more adventurous montages you need to balance them with the coherent narrative.
Intellectual montage is often used to visualize/symbolize what we don’t see on camera, but allows the audience an idea into what has happened (e.g. cutting to an image of a barn falling out of the sky in place of a male characters orgasm in the 1991 film My Own Private Idaho). This type of editing is often used to symbolize sex and love making (e.g. scene from The Naked Gun 2 ½ ).
Celebrated the camera and what it could reveal about society and the world that was quite often hidden or inaccessible to us and that history and what is happening now could be more easily remembered.
“now they have perfected the cinecamera to penetrate more deeply into the visible world, to explore and record visual phenomena so that what is happening now, which will have to be taken account of in the future, is not forgotten”
Virtov thought that the camera should penetrate every day events and that fictional cinema was misleading the masses. He was all about educating the masses on the power of the camera and filmmaking.
While Eisenstein and Virtov agreed that the Montage could be used to reveal what was otherwise hidden, they had very opposing ideas of what filmmaking should be.
contemporary montage is far more complexed than the imagery that Eisenstein and Virtov were working with. Contemporary montage is far richer in information, political symbolism and visual references. Montage sequences have become more creative in symbolizing different things and can be seen in so many different media forms including TV and films, music videos and advertisements.